The pandemic hasn’t slowed down Panama’s essential role in international trade.
Panama port activity actually rose a healthy 5.3 percent in 2020, according to the latest industry data. In addition, the ports posted the highest volume in history, totaling more than 7.73 million TEU (the industry’s term for a standard shipping container).
The numbers are an indication of the strength of Panama’s international trade, which is a key element of the economy. Even in a year when large portions of the global economy were shut down for months, Panama’s ports were still in service, helping to store and move goods from around the world.
All terminals except one facility in Colon showed improved results in 2020, according to Seatrade Maritime News, an industry publication. Manzanillo International Terminal-Panama (MIT), a joint venture between Seattle-based SSA Marine and a group of Panamanian investors, saw an increase of 4.7 percent to 2.67m teu.
“We are optimistic that the local market will continue to rebound during 2021, but we are not anticipating significant overall growth this year,” Stacy Hatfield, general manager of MIT told the publication.
In some cases, Panama was used as storage for goods that were shipped, but couldn’t be delivered due to the pandemic, evidence of Panam’s strategic role in trade.
PSA-Panama posted a 23.6 percent increase, which was “mainly driven by the strategic location that Panama has in this area,” general manager Alessandro Cassinelli told Seatrade Maritime. “We have handled and accommodated cargo in our yard waiting for countries to reopen and receive their goods.”
Meanwhile, the Panama Canal also posted a 1 percent increase in tonnage, despite the steep drop in cruise ship traffic. The increase was below projections for the year but illustrated that the Canal plays a key role in the region’s economy, regardless of the pandemic.